Conceptual Framework

EDIT 701 Framework/Narrative

updated framework diagram with learner in center

While I understood the importance of learner-centered instruction at this time last year, my coursework and experiences in the last year cemented my belief that to not focus on the learner is to waste the time and money of all stakeholders involved in the design process. Instruction should not be designed solely to fill time, check off a box, or to try out new software; instead, if instruction is truly needed because a job aid (or another assistive reference tool) will not suffice, the instructional design team should work in coordination to design and develop learner-centered instruction while simultaneously balancing the appropriate learning theory/theories, the availability of the best technology for the instruction, and the context in which the learning will occur. These are a lot of components to balance, but doing so ensures that the learning activity is efficient and appropriate for the learner. If too much emphasis is placed on any one part of the components, the connecting circle will warp and become weaker, thus degrading the quality of the instruction.

Beginning with EDIT 732 and continuing this semester with EDIT 752, my classmates and I explored the use of augmented reality (AR) in education. When we first started exploring AR, it was easy to get caught up in the newness of it. In our group assignment, we really had to dig to find a educational application that worked to solve a complex learning problem. Throughout our design process, which included our initial analysis, preliminary prototype, and two rounds of user research, we had to regularly check back with end-users and our needs assessment to make sure that we were designing a solution that they would truly use. We could have designed our solution in a vacuum, but the learner would not have really been the focus. Keeping the learners' needs in mind forced us to document, evaluate, and justify our design decisions. As such, we are currently reviewing the results of our second round of user research, which indicate that our proposed educational product is an attractive alternative to existing physical therapy home exercise programs. If we had not kept our process focused on the leaner/user, we would have wasted hours over the last two semesters designing and developing something that may not have adequately addressed the learning problem.

EDIT 601 Framework/Narrative (written in Spring 2011)

framework diagram with learner in center

In my mind, the learner is always the primary client. Other stakeholders may influence the budget, the content, and the technology used in designing and developing instruction, but the learners' needs should always come first. If the instructional designer does not advocate for them, who will?

My client service background has definitely colored my perspective as I have pursued this graduate degree. My "learner as client" approach did not seem particularly well suited for instructional design until I took EDIT 730 (Advanced Instructional Design). While other courses confirmed that I was on the right track, it was not until this class that my program choice was validated. Constructivism (as an epistemology and as a learning strategy under the objectivist epistemology--a classification presented in EDIT 704) emphasizes the active participation of a learner in their own instructional experience. Learners cannot be passive and just let instructors lecture them. Learners must engage in new experiences and instruction must support or provide those new experiences. It is the process, not the material, that is more important.

George Mason University's Instructional Design and Development program is structured in such a way that its participants engage in their own new experiences and through those experiences gain the skills they need to be Instructional Designers. EDIT 705 introduces a few learning theories, but primarily exists to introduce participants to the instructional design and development process through the ADDIE model. EDIT 704 and 730 focus on both learning theories and the practical application of those theories toward creating artifacts. Participants learn theory not just as a concept, but as a tool that should be used to create instruction for the learners' benefit. Web skills classes (EDIT 526, 601, and 772) and authoring tools classes (EDIT 575) teach technical skills that participants can use to develop instructional delivery methods for the learners benefit. Participation in any of these three classifications (design/development, learning theory, and technology) of classes on their own does make one an instructional designer. It is the knowledge from these classes combined with a learner-centered approach that makes one a true Instructional Designer--one with strong technological skills, a firm understanding of learning theories and their pedagogical models, and experience creating instruction using the instructional design and development process.

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